“We are absolutely thrilled to be releasing Bond 25 on 8 April 2020." So read the announcement on the official 007 Twitter feed late on Friday that Bond 25 is being pushed back from its February 14 2020 release date, which some Internet commentators immediately interpreted as an admission that the production was once again in turmoil. However, calmer voices swiftly pointed out that Universal Pictures, which will distribute the film internationally while MGM covers the US release in association with Annapurna under the revived United Artists banner, had announced half an hour earlier that it was pushing Fast & Furious 9 back from April 10 to May 22: Bond 25 is just moving into this newly-freed slot.
Drilling deeper really goes to show how interwoven the international film market has become. Rather than being free of competition at the Valentine’s box office, Bond 25 was looking down the barrel of Legally Blonde 3, an as-yet unnamed Disney live action movie, Warner’s Birds Of Prey (in its second week) and Nimona from Fox, while the Easter weekend in the Chinese market (where The Fate Of The Furious took $184m on its opening weekend) was looking similarly crowded for Fast & Furious 9. Less dependent on that Chinese market, Bond 25 now has the Easter weekend - which is also a four-day holiday in its key UK market - effectively to itself, while Fast & Furious 9 goes up against Godzilla vs Kong and The Spongebob Movie 3 over the Memorial Day weekend. This feels like a win all around, even without considering Universal’s track record with big international releases at Easter and the advantage of extra time to really polish Bond 25.
Which is where the other shoe dropped on Saturday afternoon: The Playlist reported that EON Productions has secured the script-doctoring talents of Scott Z. Burns. Fresh off selling his second directorial feature The Report at Sundance, we are told Burns is now in London being paid very well indeed to spend at least a month rewriting Neal Purvis and Robert Wade’s Bond 25 script.
The aesthetic and kinetic influence of 2002’s The Bourne Identity on Daniel Craig’s 2006 Bond debut Casino Royale was immediately apparent and forms a neat circle with Craig’s swansong employing a writer of The Bourne Ultimatum, while even if it wasn’t produced, Burns’ script for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. only cements his spy movie credentials. Contagion offers the kind of ripped-from-the-headlines plot and globe-trotting action that epitomises the Bond series, while The Informant! adds deft comedy to its portrayal of a man who’s clearly immersed in spy movie tropes. Given the relationship Burns formed with Steven Soderbergh on these projects, soon to bring us The Laundromat, it wouldn’t be surprising if Daniel Craig’s Logan Lucky connection is at play in bringing Burns into the Bond fold.
While further delays to the release of Bond 25 aren’t altogether welcome, we’ve had worse: between poor box office, internal EON soul-searching and external wrangling both financial and legal, a whole 6 years passed between Licence To Kill and GoldenEye, and the final product still took at least two different scripts, up to six writers, a second-choice director and a whole new Bond before it defied Timothy Dalton’s prediction that the series was done. Even within Craig’s run, four years lay between Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall, whereas it will be four and a half years between SPECTRE and Bond 25.
On balance this news is positive, demonstrating that EON are prepared to make difficult choices in the pursuit of box office but, more importantly, take advantage of changing circumstances to assemble the right talent, get the story and script right, and make the best possible Bond 25 rather than just chase an arbitrary release date. That’s got to be worth eight weeks of anybody’s delay.
Over to you: are happy or upset at the change of date? Excited to see what Scott Z. Burns can do for Bond? Worried that he’ll Bourne it up? Sound off below.